Friday, November 15, 2002

Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar spoke with President Bush yesterday by telephone for 25 minutes. The two leaders agreed that they greatly distrusted Saddam. Spanish government insiders are filtering the official line, "If Baghdad hasn't paid any attention to the UN for years, there's no reason to think that this time will be any different." Aznar repeated to Bush that he will of course give permission for the US to use its bases in Spanish territory as part of a war on Saddam. They also discussed the upcoming NATO summit in Prague and the Turkish situation; Aznar will be meeting with the new Turkish leader on Monday and will transmit a message from Bush.

Aznar's calm and patient diplomacy and his strong support for Spain's ally, the United States, have made him one of Europe's key movers and shakers; don't forget that Aznar is the elder statesman of European Union leaders, in office since 1996. Spaniards generally do not know about the high regard in which Aznar is held internationally; they often underestimate him as a little man with a silly mustache who lacks charisma. That's his external physical appearance, and it has nothing to do with what's inside the man's brain.

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